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How to make six-footers: 10 Rules From Dave Stockton

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By Dave Stockton
With Guy Yocom
Photo By Scott Mcdermott
October 2008

1. Take “try” out of the equation

When I faced a 15-foot putt to win the 1976 PGA Championship, the amount of time I took surprised a lot of people. Instead of grinding over it, I took less time than usual — 15 seconds in all. But I did not rush. I knew that if I got hung up dwelling on how much the putt meant, my chances of holing it would have dropped dramatically.

The moment you try to make a putt, you’ll miss it. Conscious effort doesn’t work. Try this experiment: Get a pen and paper and jot your signature. Now write your name a second time, trying to duplicate your first signature exactly. Chances are you’ll make a mess of it, because instead of doing it automatically, you’re now applying conscious effort. Your approach to the six-footer should be like signing your name: Do it briskly and subconsciously.

2. Think speed more than line

Speed and line are equally important, but the amateur tends to be preoccupied with the line. As you read the green, do it with the idea that you’ll roll the ball 16 inches past the hole — if you miss. After you’ve set up and taken dead aim, don’t give the line another thought. Avoid being too aggressive with the six-footer, because the edges of the hole might come into play and cause a nasty lip-out.

3. Stay away from dead straight

When Tiger Woods faced that 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines to send the U.S. Open into a playoff, he called in his caddie, Steve Williams, to help with the read. I’ll bet Tiger saw the putt as breaking to the left but was bothered by a hunch that it might be dead straight. If there’s one thing a good putter hates, it’s an absolutely straight putt. The reason is, if you start the putt straight, you have a margin for error of only half a cup on either side. Tiger needed Steve to confirm that the putt would break left, because the entire cup would be exposed if Tiger started the ball to the right. The putt indeed broke a couple inches to the left, and Tiger snuck it in on the right edge of the hole.

If the putt for all the marbles looks straight, look again. Study the area near the hole. Remember, the ball will be rolling so slowly when it gets within two feet that even the tiniest slope will cause it to break. Try to at least favor one side.
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4. You’ve already made the putt

You might have heard that it’s helpful to form a positive image of the ball going in, but you should take it further than that. Imagine the ball tracking the entire six feet, as though you’re watching a video replay of the putt dropping. This image should be so convincing that, if the putt doesn’t fall, you should be shocked. That’s how I feel when I’m putting well — I’m absolutely stunned when the ball doesn’t go in.

Do everything you can to place the six-footer in the past tense. How many times have you missed a putt, raked it back for another try and instinctively knocked it in? Adopt this “second chance” mentality on your first putt.

5. Be a painter, not a carpenter

For the good putter, the most common miss under pressure is the push. When the heat is on, there’s a tendency to hit at the ball instead of stroking through it. Like driving a nail with a hammer, the putter stops abruptly at impact. It doesn’t release to a square position, and the clubface is aimed to the right. Putt as though you’re pulling a paintbrush, your hands leading and the clubhead trailing as you stroke through.

6. Your last thought: none at all

You should have no coherent thought as you draw the putter back. Avoid saying an actual word or phrase to yourself, even a seemingly positive one such as smooth. All it will do is block the overall sense of flow you must feel to make a good stroke. The only “thought” should be a vague feeling of relaxation, readiness and rhythm. All you’re doing is allowing your subconscious mind to take over so you can invite that wonderful sense of feel where you know the putt is going to go in. Remember, there is no actual language when you’re in that sharp mental state called The Zone.

7. Get your eyes over the ball

Putting mechanics are mostly a matter of preference, but there is one universal rule for putts from six feet and in: Eyes over the ball. For most players, that means standing closer to the ball. This simplifies things enormously. It’ll help you swing the putter straight back and through. It’ll make you less handsy and decrease your chances of fanning the face open and closed excessively. And you’ll see the line better. Come to think of it, it’s a good rule for all putts.

8. Focus on that first inch

In determining the line of the putt, the only area of true precision is the first inch the ball travels. If you’ve read the putt correctly, all you need to do is make the ball roll over a spot one inch in front of it. Be painstaking about that inch. At address, keep your eyes riveted on the spot. Your biggest priority is to keep your eyes still until the ball has traveled one inch past impact. This will keep your head from moving, which is a cardinal sin. Even if you feel anxious, focusing on that all-important spot will guarantee a smooth stroke.
stockton

9. Forget about bad greens

Under pressure, all of your senses are heightened. There is a tendency to see more obstacles than usual along the line — scuff marks, ball marks, footprints, disruptions in the grain and so on. Ignore them. If you strike the ball solidly and impart a true roll, the chances of anything knocking the putt off line are remote. If a spike mark is so significant that you’re sure it will affect the roll, play a shade less break and roll the ball with a bit more speed to avoid it.

10. Take advice with a grain of salt
Most amateur golf is played at four-ball match play. If you’re going to use your partner for reading greens, make sure he knows how you read putts and how firmly you hit them. The best partner I ever had was Al Geiberger. We did well in the old “CBS Golf Classic” series, because our putting styles were similar. When Al said, “It breaks half a cup,” I knew he said it knowing how hard I would stroke the putt. Whether it’s a member-guest or your weekend game, see how the two of you read putts. Make it a focal point of your partnership.

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2008-10/stocktonrules#ixzz1fdC8mhRx

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Me and My Golf: The difference between long and short irons

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Long irons vs. short irons. In this week’s Impact Show, we discuss the differences between long irons and short irons. We talk through the different ball positions, postures, and techniques for both irons and give you some golfing drills to help you differentiate both irons!

 

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Walters: Avoid these 3 big chipping mistakes!

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Chipping causes nightmares for so many amateur golfers. This s mainly due to three core mistakes. In this video, I talk about what those mistakes are, and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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